Table of contents for Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi / Julia M. O'Brien.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog. Note: Contents data are machine generated based on pre-publication provided by the publisher. Contents may have variations from the printed book or be incomplete or contain other coding.

List of Abbreviations
Prophets and Prophetic Books
The Prophetic Genre
The Twelve or Just Twelve?
The Prophets and Ethics
Finding Meaning in Ancient Prophecy
Literary Analysis
Social and Historical Analysis
Theological Analysis
Superscription (Nah 1:1) 				
A God of Power and Might (Nah 1:2-10) 			
Yahweh's Response to Evil (Nah 1:11-14)			
The Assault of Nineveh (Nah 1:15-2:13 [Heb 2:1-14])			
An Oracle against Nineveh (Nah 3:1-19)
Literary Analysis
Social and Historical Analysis
Theological Analysis
Superscription (Hab 1:1) 
Encounter between the Prophet and Yahweh (Hab 1:2-17) 
Another Encounter between Yahweh and the Prophet (Hab 2:1-20)		
Prayer of the Prophet (Hab 3:1-19) 
The Problem with Zephaniah
Literary Analysis
Social and Historical Analysis
Theological Analysis
Superscription (Zeph 1:1) 		
Coming Punishment (Zeph 1:2-18) 
Call to Repentance (Zeph 2:1-3 [4]) 
Judgment on the Nations (Zeph 2:5-15) 
Woe and Salvation to Judah (and the Nations) (Zeph 3:1-13) 		
Promises of Salvation for Judah (and the Nations?) (Zeph 3:14-20) 
Literary Analysis
Social and Historical Analysis
Theological Analysis
Disputation over Building (Hag 1:1-11) 			
The Community's Response (Hag 1:12-15) 
An Oracle in the Midst of Building (Hag 2:1-9) 
A Request for a Priestly Ruling (Hag 2:10-19) 			
Oracle regarding Zerubbabel (Hag 2:20-23) 
Introduction to Zechariah 1-8
Literary Analysis
Social and Historical Analysis
Theological Analysis
Commentary on Zechariah 1-8
Introduction, connection Zerubbabel's work with the past (Zech 1:1-6) 
First Vision: Man on a Horse (Zech 1:7-17) 		
Second Vision: Four Horns (Zech 1:18-21 [Heb 2:1-4]) 
Third Vision: Measuring Line (Zech 2:1-5 [Heb 2:5-9]) 	
Oracle to the Exiles (Zech 2:6-13 [Heb 2:10-17]) 
Fourth Vision: The Satan (Zech 3:1-10) 			
Fifth Vision: Lampstand, Olive trees, and Zerubbabel (Zech 4:1-14) 	
Sixth Vision: Flying Scroll (Zech 5:1-4) 	
Seventh Vision: Flying Ephah (Zech 5:5-11) 	
Eighth Vision: Four Chariots (Zech 6:1-8)	
Oracle Regarding Joshua (Zech 6:9-15) 	
Question regarding Fasting (Zech 7:1-7) 
Past Unfaithfulness (Zech 7:8-14) 				
Zion's Future (Zech 8:1-8) 	
The Present Situation (Zech 8:9-13) 
Past contrasted with the Present (Zech 8:14-17) 
Answer about Fasting (Zech 8:18-19) 
Zion's Future (Zech 8:20-23)	
Introduction to Zechariah 9-14
Commentary on Zechariah 9-14
Yahweh against the Nations (Zech 9:1-8)
Yahweh to Save Jerusalem (Zech 9:9-17) 	
Yahweh against the Shepherds (Zech 10:1-12)
Shepherds of the Community (Zech 11:1-17) 		
The Protection of Judah and Jerusalem (Zech 12:1-9)
The Pierced One (Zech 12:10-14) 
	The End of Idolatry and Prophecy (Zech 13:1-9) 
The Final Supremacy of Jerusalem (Zech 14:1-21) 
Literary Analysis
Social and Historical Analysis
Theological Analysis
Superscription (Mal 1:1) 
People and God argue about Love (Mal 1:2-5) 
Priests and God argue about Respect (Mal 1:6-2:9) 	
	People and God argue about "Profaning the covenant of the Fathers" (Mal 
People and God argue about God's Justice (Mal 2:17-3:5) 
People and God argue about Scarcity and Abundance (Mal 3:6-12) 
People and God argue about the Value of Serving God (Mal 3:13-4:3 [Heb 3:13-
Closing Statements Connecting the Law and the Prophets (Mal 4:4 [Heb 3:22-24]) 
Theological Analysis
(Note to CE: Insert AOTC Foreword as in other 
Foreword page 2	
Foreword page 3
List of Abbreviations
BHK	Biblia Hebraica, ed. R. Kittel
BHS	Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
LXX	Septuagint
MT 	Masoretic Text 
Prophets and Prophetic Books
	Over the centuries, the Old Testament prophets have been understood in a 
wide variety of ways. In different times and places, prophets have been seen as 
predicting the future, as recording mystical experiences of the divine, as 
championing individual piety over religious ritual, as transmitting and enlivening 
religious tradition, and as crying for social justice. In contemporary scholarship, 
prophets are often portrayed as having interpreted the significance of world events 
for their own time--as inspired individuals who discerned for their religious 
communities the implications of current behavior for the present and for the future.
	These various understandings, however, have something important in 
common: their reconstructions of the biblical prophets rely heavily (and, for some, 
exclusively) on the interpretation of the books that bear their names. That is, the 
phenomenon of ancient Hebrew prophecy, however immediate and interpersonal it 
may have been, is mediated to contemporary persons through the documents now 
preserved and labeled as books of the prophets. 
	Just how closely the current shape of the prophetic books corresponds to the 
ancient prophets themselves is a matter of great debate. Most scholars agree that 
the final forms of all of the prophetic books likely derive from periods much later than 
those described in their superscriptions--those informational openings that provide 
various types of information, including the prophet's name, background, and 
historical context. Within individual books, vocabulary and style shift, and different 
geographical and chronological settings are presupposed. 
	The superscriptions themselves bear clues that they were written at a time 
later than that described within the books themselves. For example, Amos 1:1 
explains that Amos spoke "two years before the earthquake," reflecting a post-
earthquake perspective, and all of the prophetic superscriptions presuppose that 
the prophetic activity they document has ended. Because the superscriptions 
contain date formulae and descriptions of political history that parallel closely the 
schema presented in the Deuteronomistic History (the Books of Joshua, Judges, 
Samuel, and Kings), many scholars attribute them to a Deuteronomistic editor or, 
given their variety, to a series of like-minded editors. Although the Deuteronomistic 
origin of the superscriptions cannot be decisively defended, in their effect the 
superscriptions do forge a solid link between the Former Prophets and the Latter 
Prophets within the Jewish canon, setting prophets from different times and places 
into grand national history.
	Some redaction critics--scholars who study the process by which biblical 
books were edited--believe that the application of particular critical tools can 
unravel the stitching by which the prophetic books were woven together, separating 
the later additions from the original words of the prophet. This approach was 
especially prominent in the early- to mid-twentieth century, when some argued that 
redaction criticism could burn off the dross of the editor and leave behind the pure 
utterance of the man of God:
Instead of viewing it [redaction criticism] as laying a rough 
hand on sacred and inviolable books, one should rather 
regard it as a reverent effort to give to us of this day the 
authentic messages of these inspired men just as they fell 
from their lips. (Calkins 1947, 7)
 	Current trends in prophetic scholarship, however, have challenged redaction 
criticism's confidence that it can isolate the kernel of the book and especially its 
assumption that the "original" kernel preserves the oral speeches of a historical, 
individual prophet. Increasingly in prophetic studies, even those who remain open to 
the historical reality of prophets refuse to privilege the "original" layer of the book. 
Instead, they argue that editors and not prophets should be considered the authors 
of prophetic books. Editors may have used some traditional materials, but it was 
they who created books about prophets--addressing the needs of their own 
communities by crafting books for the sake of readers, not for the sake of historical 
	Given the distance between the "real" prophets and the final form of their 
books, then, the sense of immediacy that the prophetic books evoke--the feeling 
that one is hearing the words of inspired speakers--may derive more from their 
highly crafted poetic style than from their preservation of the original words of the 
prophets. That is, prophetic books have been constructed by their writers and 
editors to sound like the words of ancient prophets. 
	Various literary techniques help the authors of the prophetic books achieve 
such effects. The labeling of the books as "words of God to the prophet" in the 
superscriptions, as well as the books' repeated use of "messenger speech" (in 
which the speaker reports the voice of God and the quotations often end with, "thus 
says Yahweh"), invites the reader to accept the materials contained as transcripts of 
conversations between God and the prophet. As Floyd (2000, 171) notes, the 
prophetic books also address a reader directly, as a prophet would have 
addressed a hearer. 
The Prophetic Genre
	Prophetic books might properly be said to constitute a genre of material: a 
distinctive category of composition. Each opens with a superscription, the function 
of which is manifold. Superscriptions link the material to follow with a concrete 
individual by giving the prophet's name and sometimes also that of the prophet's 
father or extended family. Most superscriptions also set the prophet within a 
particular historical context in the life of Israel or Judah by giving the names of native 
kings or foreign rulers. The superscriptions also grant the book to follow divine 
authority by identifying it as the "word" that came from Yahweh, as an "oracle" or as 
a "vision." 
	The main body of prophetic books is devoted to speeches (with occasional 
narratives) that (1) announce punishment on Israel or Judah, (2) announce 
punishment on other nations, and/or (3) announce salvation to Israel or Judah. Many 
of the books end with an announcement of salvation.
	Stylistically, speeches within the prophetic books are often marked with a 
formula known as messenger speech. Just as messengers of ancient Near Eastern 
kings transmitted the wishes of their masters with "thus says King X," so too the 
prophetic words are marked with "thus says Yahweh." Together with the 
superscription, messenger speech instructs the reader to treat the words of the 
prophet as an accurate report of Yahweh's words in a particular time and place. 
Because a given book can contain material referring to time periods different than 
the one described in the superscription, a prophetic book often takes on a 
predictive tone as well; although the prophets are located in time and space, the 
divine perspective that the book records transcends the limits of temporality.
	Prophetic books are primarily in poetic form. Unlike the stories about 
prophets in the Deuteronomistic History, the prophetic books use a nonnarrative, 
evocative style. As in the Psalms and books such as Job, this poetry is 
characterized by parallelism, bold imagery, frequent metaphors, terseness of style, 
and nonstandard syntax. The prophetic materials use more hyperbole and shocking 
metaphors than other biblical poetry, however. The language is often crass--as 
when Jeremiah (chap. 2) compares Judah to a camel in heat and when Ezekiel 
describes in great detail the sexual appetites of Samaria and Jerusalem (Ezek 16, 
The Twelve or Just Twelve?
	The particular prophetic books treated in this commentary are the final half of 
a collection called the Minor Prophets by Christians and the Book of the Twelve by 
Jews. Both labels reflect the fact that the books Hosea through Malachi are short--
the longest containing only fourteen chapters (Hosea and Zechariah), as compared 
to Isaiah's sixty-six. 
	In Judaism, the Twelve are written on a single scroll; and in ancient 
descriptions of the canon, they were counted as a single book. Although these small 
books may have been so clustered because of their brevity and to economize on 
scroll production, some scholars have suggested that the individual prophetic 
materials were intentionally edited to be read as a single book. James Nogalski has 
most extensively explored the traces of redactional activity in the Minor Prophets 
that was undertaken to unify the Book of the Twelve (1993a; 1993b), though 
numerous other interpreters have argued that the Twelve presents a grand 
theological perspective.
	The arguments for the unity of the Twelve are not finally convincing. The 
superscriptions, for example, suggest that the final redactors of the books intended 
them to be read as separate compositions, as discrete words of God in unique 
times and places. That is not to imply, however, that the books are unrelated. 
Clearly, the prophetic books are highly similar in theme, style, and vocabulary; and 
books such as Zephaniah appear generically "prophetic." These similarities may 
derive from a common editor, but they may also indicate that the prophetic books 
were written, and circulated, within a small scribal circle.
The Prophets and Ethics
	In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many Protestant 
interpreters identified the prophets as spokespersons for ethical monotheism. 
Against the background of a pantheistic ancient Near East and a syncretistic Israel, 
the prophets called their people to worship Yahweh alone and to treat one another 
with justice. Amos's rousing cry for justice to run down like waters (5:24) was seen 
by turn-of-the-twentieth-century Protestant interpreters as the voice of a moral 
revolutionary. Similarly, liberationist readings of the prophets in the mid- to late 
twentieth century found in the prophets champions of the poor and politically 
	By the late twentieth century, however, many interpreters described the 
prophets as ethically problematic. Feminist criticism, for example, highlighted that 
although the prophets may champion some of the oppressed, they also consistently 
use metaphors and other speech that denigrate women. As Judith Sanderson 
points out, 
Amos specifically condemned wealthy women for 
oppressing the poor (4:1) but failed specifically to champion 
the women among the poor. . . . As Amos singled out 
wealthy women--a small group--for special 
condemnation, a balanced analysis would also have 
singled out poor women--a much larger group--for special 
defense and a show of that solidarity of which he was so 
clearly capable. (1992, 206)	
	Twentieth-century experiences of war and of the Holocaust also drew greater 
attention to the violence of the prophetic books and to their ideologically dualistic 
world. Nahum, for example, not only revels in the image of Nineveh's destruction, but 
also portrays the world as in a struggle between "us" and "them." In this way, it 
resonates with the physical and ideological battles between Israelis and 
Palestinians, Hutus and Tutsis, Serbs and Croats, "terrorists" and "the West"--
battles that are overly familiar in the modern world. 
	The books addressed here have fared especially poorly in the estimation of 
interpreters over the ages. Apart from isolated quotes taken out of context (for 
example, Habakkuk on "faith"), these six have been either ignored or denigrated: 
Nahum has been demeaned for its violence, Zephaniah for its vision of a vengeful 
God, Haggai and Zechariah for their support of the establishment, and Second 
Zechariah for its apocalypticism. The goal of this commentary is not to "rehabilitate" 
these prophets or to argue for their worth. Rather, it seeks to engage their language, 
their assumptions, and their possible background so that a reader might engage the 
books in an attitude of respect--remaining open to the possibility that these books 
might critique us as much as we critique them.
Finding Meaning in Ancient Prophecy
	In their attempts to find contemporary meaning in prophetic books, many 
interpreters treat the words of the prophets as timeless advice to the people of God. 
The names of contemporary communities and individuals are simply substituted for 
the prophets' descriptions of "Israel," "Judah," and "Jerusalem." In this 
understanding, the prophetic announcements apply directly to the contemporary 
synagogue or church, or even to a contemporary nation. Habakkuk's promises to 
those who remain faithful (2:4), Haggai's linking of religious obligation with material 
success (1:7-11), and Malachi's insistence on the paying of tithes (3:8-12) are 
understood as God's word to all people in all times and places.
	This way of reading, for all of its apparent appeal, fails to take seriously the 
material's compositional history. As suggested above, the prophetic books are 
largely retrospective, as writers or editors presented what God had done and said 
in the past as a means to communicate with their own people. 
	Moreover, the universalization of the prophetic message ignores the self-
presentation of the prophetic books. These books present themselves as 
historically contextual works. All have superscriptions that ground the book in time 
and place, and most are peppered with "historical" references and narratives. The 
superscriptions appear to be reading instructions. The prophetic message is to be 
interpreted within a concrete historical context. Readers are instructed to consider 
what God spoke through a prophet to a specific community in the past. Perhaps, as 
for original readers, the task is then to discern what significance the ancient 
message has for the contemporary scene.
	The historicized nature of the prophetic books invites a contextualized 
theology as well. By stressing the importance of the time period in which the 
prophets delivered the divine message, they suggest that God does not speak the 
same word in all times and places. In that way, they work against any theology that 
would define God's nature in static terms.
	These six books, set in the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian periods, 
depict God in various ways--as angry, as powerful, as jealous, as hurt, as caring, 
as tender. This exploration of their message and their style will attempt to hear the 
distinctive voice of each. 

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication: Bible, O, T, Minor Prophets Commentaries